Due to the Columbus Day holiday, the Mailbag got put on hold. I don’t want anybody thinking I’m trying to dodge my own errors. Therefore, I’ll start out with…

Manchester, CT says: What do you think about Boise State’s chances NOW?

We all remember last week that when this reader asked if Boise State had a shot at the BCS National Championship, I said “In a word, no.” What I should have said is if things remain as they are and the top-5 teams in the nation all remain undefeated, then no, they don’t have a shot. Now I think they do have a shot, though it is an outside one. As of right now they are projected to be No. 1 in the BCS rankings, but I think the schedule will hurt them. Nevada being ranked helps, but if Ohio State can get through a conference schedule that includes Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan unscathed – and I think they will – the Buckeyes have to move ahead of them. The same can be said of Oregon, who have already toasted Stanford and still have tough, yet not insurmountable, games against USC, Arizona and Oregon State. You can’t even rule out Oklahoma, who has already destroyed Florida State, beat up Texas and could go undefeated with possible strong wins against Missouri and Oklahoma State. TCU also runs into the same problem that Boise does when it comes to schedule. They beat Oregon State, but playing the likes of Baylor, SMU, Colorado State and Wyoming isn’t helping them. They have to hope they beat Air Force soundly and then Air Force finishes strong and then beat a tough Utah team. Don’t get me wrong. I would love to see a Boise or a TCU beat the system. Those who know and love me know that I hold the BCS with the same regard as I do mosquitoes. But with the way it’s drawn up, I’m afraid those teams need some major melt downs from the teams around them to make it happen.

Springfield, Ma wants to know: What do you make of the Deion Branch trade? Will he bring back some of that magic from 2004?

I think people should be careful romanticizing Branch’s return to the Patriots. Let’s not forget that Branch was a guy who forced his way out of town because he wanted to get paid. So don’t start painting Moss the enemy and Branch some kind of savior. In addition to that, Branch has not done much of anything since leaving the Patriots. While some of that is due to the fact he was playing in a West Coast offense, a lot more has to do with injury. From 2006 to 2009, he missed over 25 percent of the Seahawks’ games. I’m not saying he’s going to be bad, but expectations of him should be somewhat subdued, especially in the early-going.

Lowell, MA says: Notre Dame just had another really good win against a team that probably will win its conference. Is this a team that can make a run at the BCS?

In mentioning the fact that Pitt will probably win its conference – which I agree with – you’re not making the argument stronger for Notre Dame. You’re just pointing out just how weak the Big East is. If the Irish are going to have any chance of an automatic BCS bid, they have to win out, at minimum. It is possible that that can happen, but that would more of a product of the schedule being soft most of the way. Every game is winnable, but I think eight wins and a trip to the Champs Sports Bowl is a more likely scenario. I don’t think this Irish team is good enough at this point to beat Utah and that’s one they really, really need if they want to be taken seriously. They played have a good number of teams that are currently ranked (Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford), but they haven’t beaten any of them and Western Michigan, Navy, Tulsa and Army don’t carry much weight, so Utah and USC have to be the ‘statement games.’

Enfield, CT asks: Do you think Chicago will repeat as Stanley Cup Champions?

I think Chicago has a very good core group that will make them dangerous. If there’s one mistake I think that team made is letting Antti Niemi go and putting their trust in Marty Turco. Sure, Niemi was not all that heralded and almost didn’t make the team, but at the end of the season, he finished with a 26-7-4 record and an impressive 2.25 GAA and .912 save percentage. Turco is in the twilight of his career and knows it, which is why he took the substantial paycut to play for a Stanley Cup contender this year.

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